Testing Leaders, Publishers Offer ‘Best Practices’ Guide

The booklet marks a first-time collaboration for the groups
By Catherine Gewertz — August 02, 2010 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

The test-publishing industry and state assessment leaders have come together for the first time to define a set of best practices for large-scale state testing.

The result of the collaboration, released last week, is a new best-practices guide intended to serve as a road map to improving state assessment procedures. The Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents commissioners of education, and the Association of Test Publishers, a nonprofit trade group, both based in Washington, coordinated its development.

Work on the guide began in 2006, after the onset of large-scale accountability testing, driven by the No Child Left Behind Act, called attention to states’ and test publishers’ needs for guidance in designing and implementing good assessment systems, said Gene Wilhoit, the CCSSO’s executive director.

“This guide is a byproduct of an industry in its infancy that mushroomed quickly,” he said. “That helped us see the need to have much better practice.”

It tackles areas that have been nettlesome for state assessment officials as well as test publishers, including procurement, item development, test security, scoring and reporing, testing special populations, and transitioning assessment work from one provider to another.

Articulation of best-practices in assessment is particularly timely, Mr. Wilhoit noted, in light of two federal Race to the Top competitions. States vying for the $4 billion in stimulus money offered in the main contest are proposing new approaches to testing, among other ideas to improve education, and several groups of states are seeking chunks of a separate pot that offers $350 million for new assessment systems.

Common Language

The guide offers state assessment officials and test publishers a common language and set of expectations that can improve their work, said William G. Harris, the chief executive officer of the test-publishers association.

“Quality [work on assessment systems] requires both states and test publishers to make sure they understand each other’s needs,” he said.

One area that emerged as needing definition and improvement is how states write requests for proposals when they seek bids on new testing systems, Mr. Wilhoit said. States too often write vague proposals, leaving test publishers to make sense of what they want, he said, and that can spark problems down the line when the proposals—or the tests themselves—don’t reflect the states’ needs. The guide offers suggestions for organizing and training state staff in that area.

Navigating transitions can also prove bumpy for states and test-makers, Mr. Wilhoit said. Wrapping up a contract with one provider and moving smoothly into work with another can often produce awkward gaps that need to be addressed. And frequent personnel changes in state assessment departments have shown the need for consistent training to keep the testing processes running smoothly as new employees come aboard, he said.

States are also under increasing pressure to ensure that test items properly reflect their academic standards, according to Mr. Wilhoit. But they often rely too much on test publishers for that alignment, risking gaps that undermine the validity of the tests as good gauges of standards mastery, he said.

One area that was not tackled deeply in the guide was the role that technology plays in assessment, Mr. Harris said. The two groups plan to delve further into that area in the next version. A work group will convene to begin revision in 2011. The groups are seeking feedback on the guide, and that input will shape the next version, they said.

The best-practices guide is available for purchase on and on the publishers association and CCSSO websites.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the August 11, 2010 edition of Education Week as Testing Leaders, Publishers Offer ‘Best Practices’ Guide


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Interactive Play the EdWeek Spelling Bee
Educators use these words all the time. But can they spell them?
Image of a stage set up for a spelling bee.
Leonard Mc Lane/DigitalVision
Curriculum Outdoor Learning: The Ultimate Student Engagement Hack?
Outdoor learning offers a host of evidence-based benefits for students. One Virginia school serves as an example how.
7 min read
Students from Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., release brook trout they’ve grown from eggs in their classroom into Passage Creek at Elizabeth Furnace Recreational Area in the George Washington National Forest in Fort Valley, Va. on April 23.
Students from Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., release brook trout that they’ve grown from eggs in their classroom at a creek in Fort Valley, Va., on April 23.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Curriculum Opinion Classical Education Is Taking Off. What’s the Appeal?
Classical schooling is an apprenticeship to the great minds and creators of the past, enabling students to develop their own thinking.
9 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Curriculum Download For Earth Day, Try These Green Classroom Activities (Downloadable)
16 simple ideas for teachers and their students.
Earth Day Downloadable 042024